As the Netflix show, You grew in popularity, it brought into focus an issue that the digital era had unknowingly brought along with it — cyberstalking. As you see the protagonist of the show, You, easily find information about his love interest online, it seems unbelievable at first. Finding someone’s address based off a photograph seems unlikely and learning about their whole lives through a social media account or two appears to be fictional.
Are we really sure about that?
How do you define it?
It is essentially stalking someone through an online platform. Norton Australia defines it as, “The use of technology, particularly the Internet, to harass someone. Common characteristics include false accusations, monitoring, threats, identity theft, and data destruction or manipulations. It also includes exploitation of minors, be it sexual or otherwise.”
Now it’s safe to say that the show ‘You’ on Netflix ticked off more than a few of the above inclusions — creating a bit of a stir amongst its viewers. Apparently, it was that easy to invade someone’s privacy if you really wanted to. The show’s producers maintained that while a few functions on the show were fictional, the rest were entirely based on reality. If internet users weren’t practicing safety online, their lives were actually incredibly easy to piece together.
Safety tips to keep your privacy online
“Once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever.” Multiple warnings along those lines are spread across communication platforms, and it serves as a reminder to be wary of what you put up on the internet. In some cases, what an individual has said in the past on the internet, has cost them their jobs.
Here’s a few guidelines to try and keep your privacy online:
- Awareness is key in situations like this — understand what you’re signing away when you use social media applications. Often, these platforms offer you the ability to keep your account private. Facebook offers users that option with their whole account and gives each post a privacy setting, allowing users to share what they want with certain audiences. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat too, have created this security setting.
- Keep your device’s bluetooth and location settings off when not needed. Always double-check to see which apps have access or permission to your location history or data.
- Consider getting an antivirus program installed on to your devices irrespective of it being a Mac or PC as both platforms can have spyware installed. An antivirus program can help find any suspicious activity.
- Doing a weekly scan of devices connected to your computer, email accounts or cloud system is essential — immediately remove any unrecognized devices.
- If you notice new data or applications that weren’t previously there before and can’t be traced back to your personal usage, run an antivirus test. If you’ve got reason for concern, consider reaching out to experts in the field.
Taking cyberstalking seriously
Online stalking has major impacts on an individual’s mental state. Not feeling safe within the confines of your own home, feeling like someone’s always watching you and not knowing how you’re compromised, leads to serious issues. If you’ve watched the Netflix show You, you’ll truly understand the invasiveness felt by the main lead — something that is very much a real problem that women especially continue to face in real life.
It is important to note that stalking is a crime. If you think you’re a victim of cyberstalking or feel unsafe, report it to the police immediately before it escalates.